‘It’s not as if my career’s over’: Arpinder Singh on missing out on Arjuna Award for fourth time
Arpinder Singh won gold in the triple jump at the 2018 Asian Games. While his coach got a Dronacharya that same year, Arpinder has unsuccessfully applied for the Arjuna Award in three consecutive years since.
When Arpinder Singh saw his name missing from the list of Arjuna Awardees for 2020 his first reaction was that it was just a fake list.
The triple jumper was that certain that he would win the prestigious award this year ― in the fourth time of him applying for it. But in a baffling decision, Arpinder was again left out of a list that has an unprecedented 27 names, that too in a non-Olympic year. This, even as the Sports ministry guidelines specify that not more than 15 Arjuna Awards be given in a calendar year, barring exceptional circumstances.
“When I first saw the list of nominees, I thought it was fake. I didn’t believe it at first. At that point the list was not officially announced so I didn’t believe what the media was showing or my friends were sending me.
“Yes, it is baffling. For that same gold medal (at Jakarta Asian Games) if my coach has been given the Dronacharya, then why isn't it good enough for me to get an Arjuna?” asked Arpinder, who is currently training in Jalandhar.
SS Pannu, Arpinder’s first coach was given the Dronacharya after his ward had won gold at the Jakarta Asiad.
Arpinder, too, had applied unsuccessfully in 2018, and then again last year.
“In 2014, I had applied after I won a Commonwealth Games medal. That time, when I didn’t get it, I didn't feel too bad, because it was just a single medal, that too bronze. I felt maybe if it was a Commonwealth silver or an Asian Games medal, then maybe I would have got it.
“Then I applied again in 2018, and 2019. When Neeraj Chopra and Muhammad Anas were awarded the Arjuna Awards in those two years, I was really happy that they did. At least someone equally deserving got it. But this time, I'm feeling bad,” Arpinder told Firstpost.
As an aside, Chopra too has been stunningly left out from the Khel Ratna list, even as an unprecedented five athletes ― cricketer Rohit Sharma, women’s hockey team captain Rani Rampal, wrestler Vinesh Phogat, Paralympic Mariyappan Thangavelu and paddler Manika Batra ― have been picked. The dual decisions have led Athletics Federation of India chief Adille Sumariwala to throw his weight behind Arpinder and Chopra.
Arpinder felt that this year, among track and field stars, he had the best credentials for getting an Arjuna.
“I thought I would get it easily, without any issue this year,” he said. “After I applied, I was thinking either Manjit Singh (who won gold at the 2018 Asian Games in the 800m event) or I will get it this year. I had a feeling that I was ahead in the race. Maybe even both of us could get it this year. I had a Continental Cup medal as well. That is why I was feeling that there's no other athlete from track and field who is left to win an Arjuna. In 2018 and 2019, three track and field athletes got it. I don't know what the committee felt this time around.
“This shouldn't happen. If three track and field athletes have been honoured in the past two years, two track and field athletes getting an Arjuna this year should not have been an issue. Waise hi itni lambi list ho rakhi hai (Anyway the list is so long).”
Arpinder said while he was surprised by the decision, he was not one to obsess over it.
“I’ve proved myself in the past as well. I feel I’ve done my job. I’ve won a medal for the country. Nahi mil raha toh mere haath main kuch nahi hai. Main apna kaam karta hi jaoonga. (If I’m not getting it, then it’s not in my hands. I’ll keep doing what my job is.) It’s not as if my career’s over if I didn’t get it this time,” he said.
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